Last week’s episode nominally focused around it’s eponymous character, Tahani Al-Jamil. And while we did get a little insight into Tahani’s feelings about The Good Place and her relationship with Jianyu, “Tahani Al-Jamil” mostly continued the story of Eleanor and her struggle to be good.
I mention that because this week’s episode, “Jason Mendoza”, fully commits to its titular character and it comes off much the better for it. Jason Mendoza is the real name of Jianyu, the supposedly Buddhist monk whom we learned last week is not all that he seems. Well this week, we learn a whole lot more about Jason. Namely, that he is an amateur DJ, a lover of buffalo wings, and a huge, huge idiot.
Jason is a great character, falling somewhere in the category of lovable moron. He loves EDM and decorates his “bud hole”, his private room in his dream mansion with Tahani, with pictures of cars, girls in bikinis, and video game memorabilia. His favorite meal he ever had was at a restaurant called Stupid Nick's Wing Dump where topless women ate for free. He wears a football jersey over his monk’s robes and, when threatened with possible expulsion from The Good Place, doesn’t understand why he can’t download all the porn off of Michael’s computer and then blackmail him into staying quiet. He also wonders aloud if Janet, the omniscient computer, is single. Just hilarious.
But outside of all the jokes, Jason is also a fully realized character. I’ve said before that the flashbacks in this show were a detriment and didn’t contribute much, but “Jason Mendoza” is a case of flashbacks done correctly. Jason may have been a fool while he was alive, but he had dreams and a real desire to achieve them. The past also directly ties into the present, with his refusal to pretend to be AcidCat, even if it makes him popular, feeding into his growing refusal to be Jianyu. The easy joke would be to say that he is too dumb to stay silent, but it’s more than that. Jason Mendoza has actual pathos.
Jason is also a very smart writing choice. As I’ve mentioned before, there are only so many times that Eleanor can learn her lesson before we either get bored or all her sharp edges are filed down. Jason’s ignorance and his inability to grasp how much trouble he may be if his Jianyu deception is uncovered, opens up a whole lot of plot options. It also allows Kristen Bell to play a wider range as she can be the straight women to his idiocy.
There are going to be a few more quotes this week as this episode had a better-than-average hit ratio for me. I laughed out loud several times. So much credit needs to go to Manny Jacinto. In the flashbacks, he plays Jason with a certain combination of naiveté and wistfulness that makes him both pitiable and lovable at the same time. Bell had a stellar week as well, reacting with increasing alarm to Jacinto’s antics. Overall a great episode and my favorite so far.
• “There's so much thoughts in my brain, it's like my head is filled with rocks.”
• Jason on The Good Place: “It’s either an alien zoo or a prank show”
• “You should listen to me. I came up with hundreds of plans in my life and only one of them got me killed.” - Jason’s rationale for why his plan to blackmail Michael will work.
• “Eleanor, you broke Jianyu”
• "I don't wanna DJ in Jacksonville all my life. I wanna DJ in Daytona!” - Jason on life dreams
• “So dumb, so much dumber than belts” - a delighted Michael referencing his new suspenders
• "You broke THE WORLD. That's not a compliment.” - Bell’s half-smile really makes this one.
• “I am here to learn about ethnics.”
Photo Credit: NBC